|Archaeologists||A. Isakov, R. Besenval, B. Lyonnet|
|Official name||Proto-urban Site of Sarazm|
|Designated||2010 (34th |
Sarazm is an ancient
Located 15 kilometers west of the city of
The site is of great interest for archaeologists as it constitutes the first proto-historical agricultural society in this region of Central Asia. Moreover, it is the most north-eastern of those proto-historical agricultural permanent settlements. Sarazm was the first city in Central Asia to maintain economic relations with a network of settlements covering a vast territory from the Turkmenistan steppes and the Aral sea (in the northwest) to the Iranian Plateau and the Indus (in the south and southeast).
Following surface discoveries unearthed due to agricultural activity, the first excavation of the site started in 1977 and was conducted by Abdullah Isakov of the Academy of Science of Tajikistan. During that first excavation, eight soundings in the different locations were conducted and three areas were excavated. In 1987, seven areas were excavated and twenty soundings had been conducted.
The site was researched through multiple partnership between the
The site is composed of four distinct layers of occupation separated by long period of abandonment. This classification was established during the first excavations. There are about 1.5 to 2 meters of deposits in total for about a millennium of occupation and not all four layers are found in every location, suggesting the settlement moved over the centuries. The different layers are numbered Sarazm I, II, III, IV, with Sarazm I being the most ancient layer.
The datation of the layers is uncertain, although most agree on the first half of the
Here are the datation results as recalibrated in 1985 by the American-USSR mission, using the results from the Leningrad laboratory.
|Layer||Excavation||Datation (BP)||Datation (Recalibrated)|
|Sarazm I||4||LE-2172:5050±60 BP||cal 3907-3775 BC (1σ)|
|Sarazm I||4||LE-2173:4880±30 BP||cal 3790-3645 BC (1σ)|
|Sarazm I||2||LE-2174:4940±30 BP||cal 3870-3660 BC (1σ)|
|Sarazm II||3||LE-1806:4460±50 BP||cal 3365-3020 BC (1σ)|
|Sarazm II||3||LE-1808:4230±40 BP||cal 2970-2795 BC (1σ)|
|Sarazm III||2||LE-1807:3840±40 BP||cal 2415-2185 BC (1σ)|
|Sarazm III||3||LE-1420:3790±80 BP||cal 2410-2115 BC (1σ)|
The excavation VII, which was conducted by the French mission also produced some radiocarbon datation of this site.
|Layer||Datation (BP)||Datation (calibrated)|
|Sarazm I||4450±60 BP||cal 3350-2937 BC (2σ)|
|Sarazm I||4380±70 BP||cal 3330-2890 BC (2σ)|
|Sarazm II||4130±70 BP||cal 2910-2494 BC (2σ)|
|Sarazm III||3990±70 BP||cal 2863-2330 BC (2σ)|
|Sarazm IV||3850±90 BP||cal 2580-2044 BC (2σ)|
|Sarazm IV||3800±70 BP||cal 2470-2040 BC (2σ)|
The datation was also confirmed through the cultural artefacts belonging to others cultures who had already been investigated. For instance the presence of Turkmen clay shards from the
Following the first excavation, Isakov concludes that "It has been clearly established that the inhabitants of Sarazm were occupied not only with agriculture and herding but also with metallurgical production". A large metal repertoire has been unearthed from the II, III and IV layers: daggers, awls, chisels, axes and decorative pieces were among the discoveries. There is ample evidence that the metal was actually worked in Sarazm using similar techniques as the ones used in Mesopotamia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indus Valley.
The ceramics discovered at Sarazm indicate contacts extending to the Iranian Plateau, Northern Baluchistan and Turkmenistan. For example, pottery from the Bronze Age north-eastern Iranian culture, from Seistan and Baluchistan have been found.
The agriculture was also facilitated by the construction of irrigation facilities that allowed the inhabitants to use the water from the Zerafshan river and capture the water from the mountains as well.
The Sarazm III period corresponds to the peak of Sarazm's economy as the population had grown, building techniques improved and various economic activities such as pottery (using the newly invented slow rotating wheel) and more specialisation in metallurgy and other crafts.
The city is believed to have been revived as a mining point to collect from nearby sources of
Among the many structures that were excavated, the majority appear to be multi-rooms habitations, but some seem to have a different purpose and serve as communal buildings. Those buildings seem to be well thought out with clear plans, regular bricks with walls that are sometimes covered in coloured coating, however their functions remain unclear. Two main building techniques are present on the site: raw earth brick (moulded and dried under the sun) and hand-shaped earth construction.
Sarazm I architecture was badly damaged by the subsequent layer, therefore it has not been studied thoroughly. The buildings from the second period show the presence of passages of 50-60 centimeters by 20-25cm linking the building of a complex together and allowing for access to a courtyard where bread ovens were also found. The floors during the Sarazm III period were usually burned. Some buildings also presented large hearths and it was theorised based on observation of similar hearths in Turkmenistan that these buildings might have served as cult areas.
Fortifications were also discovered in the excavation II.
Burial sites were in the shape of a large circle of 15 meters diameter surrounded by a wall. In some of the burial chambers, valuables objects such as pottery and beads have been found. A large necropolis has yet to be discovered.
Following the analysis of the remains, the anthropologist Khodzhaiov has concluded that the people of Sarazm originated in southern part of Central and Southwest Asia and are genetically related to the population of other
At the peak of the occupation of Sarazm, the city was economically thriving and artistic production flourished. Pottery was richly ornamented with motifs such as circles, crosses, triangles, lines and net pattern painted using red, yellow and blue pigments. The rosette patterns found on some ceramic could be indicative of an understanding of the solar calendar.
The religious beliefs of the Sarazm people are unclear, but we know that they had altars where sacred fires burned.
Sarazm seems to be connected to the Göksür culture through its east-ward migration in the region.